JD Power is out with their consumer survey on frequent flyer programs and they are ranking programs as follows:
- JetBlue Airways TrueBlue
- Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
They then ranked the other three airlines included in their research as Delta, American, and United respectively.
The study highlights that “Frequent fliers want more than miles” but the examples they give are about earning miles in a variety of places something all the major US frequent flyer programs provide — most more so than their winner JetBlue. This isn’t about spending miles for toasters.
JD Power appears to be disclosing very little about their methodology that I can find. Their hotel loyalty studies have been deeply flawed.
They do say that they place emphasis on member communications which – while important for members to get the most out of a program – doesn’t really speak to the underlying value of that program. And they separately consider ‘earning and redemption’ from <>‘account activities’ which seems strange.
Satisfaction is measured across four factors: Member Communication; Earning and Redeeming Points; Program Benefits; and Account Activities.
Brian Sumers of Skift tried to undercover more of the methodology behind the survey but JD Power “declined to share more detailed information about its questions, or how it conducted the survey.”
While they may offer conclusions that we can make some sense out of, those conclusions don’t obviously stem from a sound approach at actually understanding who is delivering the most value to customers.
JetBlue has a regional and simple program but doesn’t offer much of an opportunity beyond simple rebates. Their program is closer to a punch card than offering travel dreams to members and is likely to appeal most to customers based in New York, Boston, and South Florida.
Alaska’s program is underappreciated with generous points-earning and global partnerships. The Mileage Plan program is the last major offering in the US that rewards customers for how much they fly not how much they spend — and that still has consumer-friendly award pricing. However with Delta’s ties cut from the program and American’s partnership with Alaska much diminished, the carrier that bought Virgin America is largely a viable player on the West Coast.
These things are generally true, Alaska Airlines is defensible as best program (#2 in the JD Power rankings) but JD Power seems to be getting there by luck.